By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House appear on the verge of advancing President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion-and-growing domestic policy package alongside a companion $1 trillion infrastructure bill in what would be a dramatic political accomplishment — if they can push it to passage.
The House scrapped votes late Thursday but will be back at it early Friday, and White House officials worked the phones to lock in support for the president’s signature proposal. After months of negotiations, House passage of the big bill would be a crucial step, sending to the Senate Biden’s ambitious effort to expand health care , child care and other social services for countless Americans and deliver the nation’s biggest investment yet to fight climate change.
Alongside the slimmer roads-bridges-and-broadband package, it adds up to Biden’s answer to his campaign promise to rebuild the country from the COVID-19 crisis and confront a changing economy.
But they’re not there yet.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked furiously into the night at the Capitol Thursday and kept the House late to shore up votes. The party has been here before, another politically messy day like many before that are being blamed for the Democrats’ dismal showing in this week’s elections. On and off Capitol Hill, party leaders declared it’s time for Congress to deliver on Biden’s agenda.
“We’re going to pass both bills,” Pelosi insisted at a midday press briefing.
Her strategy now seems focused on passing the most robust bill possible in her chamber and then leaving the Senate to adjust or strip out the portions its members won’t agree to. The House Rules Committee was set to convene late Thursday to prepare the bill for floor votes.
Half the size of Biden’s initial $3.5 trillion package, the now sprawling 2,135-page bill has won over most of the progressive Democratic lawmakers, even though it is smaller than they wanted. But the chamber’s more centrist and fiscally conservative Democrats continued to mount objections.
Overall the package remains more far-reaching than any other in decades. Republicans are fully opposed to Biden’s bill, which is called the “Build Back Better Act” after the president’s 2020 campaign slogan.
The big package would provide large numbers of Americans with assistance to pay for health care, raising children and caring for elderly people at home.
There would be lower prescription drug costs , limiting the price of insulin to $35 a dose, and Medicare for the first time would be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for prices of some other drugs, a long-sought Democratic priority.
Medicare would have a new hearing aid benefit for older Americans, and those with Medicare Part D would see their out-of-pocket prescription drug costs capped at $2,000.
The package would provide some $555 billion in tax breaks encouraging cleaner energy and electric vehicles, the nation’s largest commitment to tackling climate change.
With a flurry of late adjustments , the Democrats added key provisions in recent days — adding back a new paid family leave program , work permits for immigrants and changes to state and local tax deductions.
Much of package’s cost would be covered with higher taxes on wealthier Americans, those earning more than $400,000 a year, and a 5% surtax would be added on those making over $10 million annually. Large corporations would face a new 15% minimum tax in an effort to stop big businesses from claiming so many deductions that they end up paying zero in taxes.
From the White House, “the president has been very clear, he wants to get this moving,” said principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
As night fell, Democratic leaders struggled to resolve a catalog of remaining issues as lawmakers balanced the promise of Biden’s sweeping vision with the realities of their home-district politics.